HYUNDAI is paving the way for a new era of design at the South Korean automotive powerhouse with confirmation this week that former Bentley design director Luc Donckerwolke will head up its newly created Prestige Design Division.
Although to officially start mid-2016, the Belgian designer is believed to have been offered the job prior to his official resignation from Bentley on June 4, and has since begun work on the new fully fledged Genesis brand alongside Hyundai Motor Group president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer.
Together, the two former VW Group design heavyweights will craft a new family of vehicles that will see Hyundai Motor compete head-to-head with the best from Europe and Japan in the same way that Infiniti represents the pinnacle of Nissan, and Lexus does likewise for Toyota.
However, Mr Donckerwolke’s appointment also places him in line to succeed Mr Schreyer as overall head of Hyundai and Kia design, should the 63-year-old German designer retire in 2017 – as has been widely speculated – when his contract comes up for renewal.
Mr Donckerwolke, 50, reportedly described the opportunity to take Hyundai to new heights as an “offer of a lifetime” around the time of his departure from Bentley, having overseen design at the hallowed Volkswagen-owned British brand since 2012, working on key new models including the forthcoming Bentayga SUV.
He was previously head of advanced design for the entire Volkswagen Group, and in prior assignments was head of design for Seat, Skoda and, from 1998 to 2005, Lamborghini.
At Lamborghini, he was responsible for the award-winning designs of the 2002 Murcielago and 2004 Gallardo, and worked with Walter de Silva on the 2006 Lamborghini Miura concept.
He began his automotive design career with Peugeot in 1990, moving to Audi two years later and turning out a range of concept and production cars – and the R8 Le Mans racer.
Although Mr Schreyer – the former VW Group chief designer who moved to Kia in 2006 before expanding his role in 2013 – will oversee the work of the new Prestige Design Division at Hyundai, Mr Donckerwolke will be the driving force behind new vehicles beyond the current Genesis large sedan, which was launched in Australia a year ago priced from between $60,000 and $82,000.
Hyundai has promised to launch six new Genesis models by 2020, all designed to “compete with the world’s most renowned luxury car brands” across a range of passenger car and SUV segments built around an alphanumeric naming structure the combines ‘G’ with numbers such as 90, 80 and 70 that represent the segment.
At Bentley, Stefan Sielaff succeeded Mr Donckerwolke as director of design, moving from his dual role as head of VW Group interior design and design director at VW’s Potsdam studio.
By Terry Martin